'RENT' celebrates 20th anniversary at the Wharton Center
The musical "RENT" will be celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Wharton Center March 17 through March 19.
"RENT" tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists that are struggling to survive and create a life in New York City. The music, lyrics and book were written by Jonathan Larson.
Actor Christian Thompson plays landlord Benjamin Coffin III, or Benny, and has been on tour with the Broadway show since September. He said he got involved with theater when we was 8 years old in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. where he grew up.
“There was a specific production of 'Cats' that I saw with my mom and she put me on the aisle because they come through the aisles, and I remember making eye contact as this 7 or 8 year old with one of the performers and thinking to myself, ‘I want to do that. That is what I want to do. There is a person in there and I could be that person,’” Thompson said.
Years later, Thompson has been in multiple Broadway productions. He said Benny has been one of his favorite roles to take on.
“I think Benny gives me the best of both worlds because he is definitely an interesting, complex character that I get to work on as an actor every day but he also has a beautiful vocal line and he has got a sick dancing act, too,” Thompson said. “This role is the role I really love to do, something that will challenge me and make me use every tool I have in my tool box.”
Thompson said being on tour with "RENT" can be difficult, but his cast members make it a rewarding experience.
“When I was back in NY I was living in a glorified broom closet so I get to stay in some awesome hotels, which is great, but it is tricky ... because you don’t have a home base and you can get homesick really quick, which is why it’s so important to have a great cast, crew and team with you and they become your family away from home,” Thompson said.
Thompson encouraged students to come and see "RENT" while it's at the Wharton Center.
“I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are one community ... especially now with everything that has been going on, it has been very divisive recently with a very large divide in this country and in the world really,” Thompson said. “I think 'RENT' does a great job of reminding us that we are all just individual people trying to make it through this wild ride called life and doing the best we can every day.”
Marketing manager of the Wharton Center Tara Peplowski said the storyline of "RENT" is as relevant to today as it was 20 years ago.
“I think the arts have always been important,” Peplowski said. “There is that shared experience that you have of theater. You are going with friends, family and colleagues and just have that shared experience of live theater.”
Political science junior Samantha Perry said she is a fan of musicals and will be seeing RENT this weekend. She said her favorite song is "Take Me or Leave Me."
“I like (that) it’s a positive portrayal of LGBT groups and also just I guess kind of all non-heteronormative sexuality,” Perry said. “It was one of the first pieces of mainstream type media, I think that had positive depictions of gay relationships and of a transgender person.”